A Bunch of Cheaters

How to do burpees

Cheaters suck.

In competition, there is little that is more frustrating than losing to someone who has cheated.

For Obstacle Racing to become a legitimate “sport” and a valid test of competitive superiority among its athletes, there must be standards that are met by all participants. When participants take it upon themselves to ignore the rules of competition, chaos ensues, doubts are raised, and conflicts develop.

Don’t be a cheater.

Attempt Every Obstacle

If you sign up for an obstacle race, you should expect to attempt every obstacle. In this writer’s opinion, if you KNOW you cannot swim, don’t sign up and just skip the swimming obstacle. Instead, find another race.

There is no shame in failing; but there is plenty of shame in first, glancing around to see if anyone is looking, and then, waddling past a 8-foot wall because you don’t want to make a fool of yourself struggling up the obstacle like a stranded seal in San Francisco Bay.

OCR is a supportive community. If you are willing to try, there a hundred athletes behind you, all ready to help you achieve that goal. If that means squatting on all fours and creating a step-ladder for you to get over that wall, or cupping the hands to give you a lift, or even collecting a group to toss your big ass over, athletes in the community will be there for you.

Even better, they’ll high-five you on the other side, tell you what a great job you did, and move on.

That’s the experience you came for when you signed up for an obstacle race, isn’t it?

Complete Your Obstacle Penalties

Most races do not have obstacle penalties. I could write an entire piece about this subject as in my humble opinion, a race with no penalties is no valid race at all – it’s just a trail run.

Spartan Race is probably the most well-known obstacle race series in which penalties can be a major factor in race performance and finish time. Typically, failing or skipping a major obstacle in a Spartan Race will result in the participant being ushered to the sidelines to complete thirty [30] full-range burpees.

They key here is “30”, and “full-range”, but what is really going on is anything but.

Is Counting To 30 An Obstacle?

It sure seems that way.

Next race, meander on over to a monkey bar obstacle, rope climb, or wall traverse and watch the crowds of obstacle failures attempt their set of burpees. Let me know if you find more than 1 out of 5 that are actually completing their obstacle penalty, because I’ve never seen it.

Why should that seemingly fit girl in purple tights get to short her burpee count, when a far less fit athlete, is struggling through her burpees, as instructed?

At one race, I informed a girl from the sidelines, “hey – that was only 14 burpees.”

Her response? “I have to catch up to my friends.”

There’s something wrong with that, isn’t there?

A Burpee Is Not A Squat Thrust

There is almost an infinite number of videos on YouTube displaying proper burpee form, but in short, the bottom of the burpee should have the athlete on the ground, full legs, hip, and torso contact, with the top of the movement consisting of an open hip, and controlled jump into the air.

That is a legit burpee.

You’ll find people who throw their legs behind them, into a high-butt plank, and then jump right back up, and do it again.

That’s not a legit burpee. No rep.

You’ll find people who flop to the ground, roll side-to-side to get themselves up, and then with a muted hip, start the process over. No open hip, no jump, and in my opinion, no rep.

Who Cares, Cranky?

I care.

I’m hardly an elite racer and I’ve never seen the podium in OCR, but I do run the elite heats, and in these heats more than anywhere, I expect a higher level of competitive integrity. The problem stems from the the top, to the back of the pack, and I would like to see our community police it more, and especially when there is money involved for the top finishers.

Look at every OCR race web site out there. What is the overarching theme?


“Dig deep and challenge yourself.”

“Achieve the seemingly impossible.”

I have yet to see a race that promotes,

“Super easy obstacles.”

“30 burpee penalty (unless you don’t want to).”

“Anyone can do it!”

Why? Because most obstacle course races want to be viewed as true tests of one’s physical, mental, and emotional capability under the duress of challenging competition – whether vs. oneself or other racers.

Cheating in an obstacle race only cheats one person – yourself. You are the one that has to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and asterisk your own race finish, right?

Now It’s Your Turn

So I ask the community, how much cheating do you see? How has it affected you or your race, and better yet, what can we do to curb it? Let us know in the comments below. Remember the OCR community is YOUR community and rest assured that the race directors are watching and reading.

Speak up to drive change.


Cranky Bastard is a weekly editorial feature of Obstacle Racing Media, written by a member of the OCR community, to share personal thoughts, experiences and opinions regarding obstacle racing. Got an opinion? Let ’em have it.